Friday, March 9, 2012

Inland trip with Joaquin: February 13-15

Joaquin and Family

Nuera Italia, Uruapan, San Juan Nuevo, Santa Clara, Paracuaro

When we set out on this sailing adventure I was excited to see places in a different way really see not only the country but the people and its culture. I feel that with this trip we achieved this experience.
We met our friend Joaquin last year in Ixtapa where he worked as a waiter. While we were at his restaurant we overheard him say he lived in Tillamook Oregon. Well that is a small place, and so we struck up a conversation with him about his time in Oregon. We learned that he also provided inland tours and fishing trips. We exchanged email addresses and he invited us to look him up when we returned the following year. We were happy to meet with him on our return to Ixtapa.  We then made arraignments for this tour prior to leaving for Huatulco.
Day One: February 13
With Kris and Bob watching Mazu in the anchorage of Zihuatanejo, meet Joaquin on the pier at 7am for an early start. Joaquin lives in Nueva Italia which is about two hours north of Ixtapa. We ride along on a nice toll road to get there.
Nueva Italia is a working man’s Mexican town with many working in the nearby fields and orchards. Joaquin grew up here and this is where most of his family still lives. His Mother and Father are here along with 9 brothers and sisters (two sisters live in Oregon). There are also numerous Aunts, Uncles, cousins, etc. here.  He first takes us to his home to meet his family (and to drop off his laundry). He has a nice large home that he takes great pride in. His parents’ home is in the same fence area as his and he has several brothers with homes along the same small dirt road. As is with most homes in Mexico it is constructed of concrete with tile floors. We meet his wife, Esbeida, his daughter, Esbeida (they call her Beida) and son’s Jacob and John. We also meet his parents Dolores (Lola) and Father Viviano.
After a quick meal at his sisters (Minga) louncheria we head up to the city of Uruapan. We take the old highway that winds through the mountains. We travel through a beautiful and rugged canyon by a really large reservoir and are soon in a pine forest. It reminds me of central Oregon.
Uruapan is a large city, clean and with what seems to be a good standard of living. As we are higher in elevation it is much cooler that at the coast, in fact today it is cloudy and a bit rainy again reminding me of Oregon. He takes us to this beautiful park/nature preserve “Patronato del Parque Nacional.
It is absolutely beautiful here. You follow a trail through a lush forest full of pine trees, cedar trees, ferns, and a rushing river. You think you are in Oregon (the rain is helping) until you see the banana trees. You follow the river as it meanders through the park. Along the way to are treated to elaborate fountains and man-made and natural waterfalls. There is even a fish hatchery located in the park. Most of the drinking water for the city comes from this river.
We finish up our time in the park and head to the small town of San Juan Nuevo. Nuevo means new and it is called Nuevo as the town had to be rebuilt after it was destroyed in 1941 by a volcano eruption. This town has a large and grand church that we tour. It is the largest church I have seen so far in Mexico. Such a large church for such a small town, I am sure there is a story behind that. San Juan Nuevo is also known for its fine needle craft work. There are many shops selling clothing and table cloths with fine embroidery work. Here we have a late lunch and return to Joaquin’s home where we will spend the night. 
Day 2: Santa Clara de Cobre, Patzcuaro, Janizio. (February 14, Valentine’s Day)
We are up early as we have a long day planned. We have a light breakfast of homemade tortillas and cinnamon tea. We are picking up Joaquin’s nephew, Raul. He will assist as our guide as he lived in the area we will be going to.
We head north again this time on the toll road for a faster trip up to Santa Clara de Cobre. This small town is renowned for its copper artisans. It is again cool and cloudy as we travel up into the mountains.
Our first stop in Santa Clara de Cobre (Cobre means copper) is a small family copper smiting forge. It is a simple operation with a fire area, a blower to stoke the fire and several specialty hammers and various molds and stumps for hammering the copper to its final form. The son explains that the copper use to mined in the area but now they use recycled material. Here we see several large copper pots/kettles and small decorative items. We purchase two small capper jars.  We stroll down the streets looking in the shops. We visit a museum that has many examples of the copper works of the area through time. They also have several pieces from the winners of the annual copper works competition held annually here.
We then go to “Cobre El Porton” where we can see a demonstration of how the copper is worked into the decorative and functional pieces to be sold. Each piece takes several days to complete. The workers are paid by the piece and the tips they receive for the demonstrations. I take several pictures and I am given the opportunity to work on a pot, hammering it into the solid form it will take. It is harder than it looks to get the consistent hammer marks that make up a completed piece. I will leave it up to the artist.  I purchase a salt and pepper shaker and a small copper rose to give to Esbeida for Valentine’s Day.
It is soon time to leave as we still are to visit the town of Patzcuaro and the Island of Janizio, In Patzcuaro we have lunch in the large Mercado near the square then head to the lake where the water taxis wait to take you out to the island.
The island is in the middle of the lake and is home to the indigenous people of the Purepecha or Tarascan.  Janizio means “Where it rains”. The town if famous for its butterfly fishermen who are skilled in lowering butterfly shaped nets to catch the local fish” pescado blanco” a small white fish that they fry in oil. Now the town caters mostly to tourist who come here.
At the top of the island is a large statue of Jose Maria Morelos, a hero of Mexico’s independence. The island is very steep. You hike up narrow streets and steps to reach the top. Once we are there we are rewarded with a fantastic view of the lake below and a close up look and the spectacular statue. I think that we are done and start to head back down. Joaquin laughs and stops me, saying we are now going to walk up inside the stature to the top of his upraised arm! I think that I won’t come close to making it, but I am game to try. We walk around and around the narrow stair case; each level is painted with murals depicting the life of Morelos. We finally reach the top ( 135 ft.) I get up enough nerve to climb on the small ledge to look out the small window and snap a picture.
It is time to go back to Joaquin’s for dinner. I am going to make spaghetti for him and extended family (about 20). We spend the evening enjoying the food, wine and his family. But we are glad to lie down and sleep after such a long day.
Day 3 Paracuaro and home:
Esbeida makes us a huge breakfast of hashbrowns, eggs, and of course tortillas. I get a lesson on how to make them. It is not as easy as it looks to get them on to the hot skillet just right and then to flip them (with your fingers) over at just the right time. But I manage to make a few that are edible. Today we will go with Joaquin and the kids to the local Mercado and to his favorite water “park” in Paracuaro.
The park has several pools constructed that are filled with the spring water that his here. The water is so clean, cool and fresh that many people come and fill water bottles to take home. That is what we do too. It is too cool to swim today, but this is a favorite place with Joaquin and his family in the hot summer months where they will spend the entire day here.
And all too soon it is time to go home. We are full from a wonderful fish lunch that Esbeida has prepared for us. We say goodbye to her and the kids. We have had such a great time. And we are truly happy to have met them all.

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